Whilst Mulaka has a familiar feel to its gameplay elements, it does feel like an immersive and cultural experience. However, there are some deep flaws within the games combat system which should have really been retconned by now with it coming up to its first anniversary in the hands of gamers.
Let’s first look into the overall structure of Mulaka. Rather than providing players with one expansive open world, Lienzo opted for large areas which serve as a giant level with task laid out to players to find and overcome. This Tarahumaran adventure is more akin to ‘Skyward Sword’ in this respect, guiding players to various keystones or new items which help access new areas to then push ahead.
No Killer, All Filler?
Whilst it’s a good format and a sound structure, it doesn’t really present a challenge of sorts and can become a little stale going over the exact same pattern time and time again. Rather than enriching the experience with intertwined narrative elements to the various areas and tasks involved with navigating it, Mulaka literally gives players a native style shopping list before getting to the real core of the gameplay experience.
An annoying feature which was overlooked is the players’ protagonist not clinging to ledges when walking past its edge. We understand as players this isn’t a platforming title, thus we don’t need such harsh condition in open-planned levels/areas.
Boss battles, on the other hand, are well designed and thought-provoking, leaving this reviewer scratching his head trying to work out the beasts weaknesses. Luckily, there is a guide in-game which prompts players with a pop-up, which leads to a short paragraph on the beasts background and its weakness.
Which leads me back to the games fighting system which I touched on earlier (Takes a deep breath). The actual design is great, light attack, heavy attack, dodging, finishing moves, D-Pad used for bombs/healing and shoulder buttons used for sprinting and aiming a spear. This is all that players would expect from an Action Role Playing Game, but there’s no lock on or auto camera option.
How in ‘Onorúames’ name (Tarahumara God/Christ) are players supposed to fend off literally 20/30 enemies at once by manually rotating the game’s camera? It’s a major flaw that truly let’s immersion and thought-provoking gameplay down. But, due to the charm of Mulaka, I stuck with it and got used to it. For readers who decide to pick this title up, make good use of dodge and sprint to give yourself time to adjust the camera angle.
In fact, the hit and run tactic during battle serves players rather well, due to the protagonist having to perform a tribal dance whenever he uses a potion for example. I really enjoyed the crafting system in Malaka, because there basically isn’t one.
Collecting Aloe for potions, other plants for bomb-making and more is great, it’s the reason why I love ‘Horizon: Zero Dawn’ so much. Crafting is kept as a low priority in gameplay which allows players to freely enjoy what the game has to offer.
The soundtrack is a native tribute to the Tarahumaran people, as is the dialogue/narrative which only adds to the immersion. Pan flutes, bongo-type drums, native chants and more are all supported by an elemental backdrop of sound which compliments to overall composition well.
Overall Score: 7.3 / 10
Mulaka is such a beautiful concept which delivers in more areas than it fails to. But, the areas it doesn’t perform in makes the biggest difference to gameplay. The charm Mulaka possesses is something beautiful, something that this reviewer thinks Developer Lienzo has neglected by not attending to the fixes needed for this cultural tribute post-launch. It’s a great pickup on the Microsoft store, providing players know what to expect.
Format: Xbox One X (reviewed), PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and PC
Price: £15.99 (Microsoft Store)
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 02/03/2018 (Microsoft Store)
Review copy provided by publisher